Planning your successful Kilimanjaro trek
What to know
Kilimanjaro Hiking Tours has more than 12 years of experience in leading hikers and climbers to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Our experienced guides have safely guided thousands of clients to the top of the mountain. Choosing the right partner can be mean the difference between summiting or not. Kilimanjaro Hiking Tours aims to provide the potential Kilimanjaro climber with valuable and accurate information on climbing Kilimanjaro, which will hopefully contribute towards increasing your chances of a successful summit attempt. We have compiled this information over years of experience as well as from feedback from previous clients. From all the information provided in this guide, the tips listed on this page is probably the most important.
Before the climb
Be properly equipped
An essential part of your Kilimanjaro preparation will be to ensure that you are well equipped for your summit attempt. Print our final Kilimanjaro checklist and mark it off, to ensure that you are. Click on the Final Kilimanjaro Checklist to get to this very important step in your Kilimanjaro preparation.
Be physically prepared
It is important that your body is adequately prepared for the physical challenges of Mount Kilimanjaro. We have developed a dedicated Kilimanjaro fitness program which will assist you in getting your body in shape for your Kilimanjaro summit expedition. We will send you a copy of our dedicated Kilimanjaro Fitness Program once you have completed your booking with us.
It is possible to summit Mount Kilimanjaro successfully. Many before you have succeeded. This should be at the topmost in your mind when preparing for the summit attempt. You should always remain in a positive state of mind, but not overly arrogant. Try to anticipate various different scenarios, which you may possibly encounter on the mountain and try to work out the most suitable course of action, mentally by yourself or even as a group. Your mental stamina will, without a doubt, make the really difficult sections, like from Kibo to Uhuru or from Barafu to Uhuru, easier to complete. Remember if you are properly equipped and you have taken everything as indicated on the final checklist, you are physically prepared. And with all the knowledge gained from this internet guide – you will be mentally confident for the physical part of Kilimanjaro.
Adequate travel insurance
Make sure that you have adequate travel and medical insurance, which will also provide you with cover for the climbing Kilimanjaro. Some insurance companies see climbing Kilimanjaro as an adventure activity or high altitude mountaineering and their normal policies doesn’t provide cover climbing Kilimanjaro. Please make sure that the insurance policy you choose will cover to the summit of climbing Kilimanjaro.
Private Kilimanjaro hike or Kilimanjaro group trek?
A private Kilimanjaro hike means you are flexible to choose your own dates and have private services for your group including sleeping tents, dining tents, equipment (camping routes), mountain transfers as well as your own dedicated team of guides, porters, cook and waiter, serving your group only. There will off course be other people hiking Kilimanjaro and using the public facilities at the same time. This option is perfect for groups of 3 or more, couples wanting privacy, friends, families, solo hikers with special requirements and large groups.
Scheduled Kilimanjaro group trek normally has fixed dates that cannot be changed. You will also share common services with those in your group including camping equipment (camping routes) mountain transfers and the support team. However it is possible to reserve your own sleeping tent, hotel room and even a private guide. Scheduled group hikes are a great way of saving on the package price and meeting other like-minded people from around the world. A scheduled Kilimanjaro group trek is usually for solo travellers or couples looking for a group route. Kilimanjaro group treks are limited to 12 person maximum but most only have 3 to 5 hikers joining.
When to climb Kilimanjaro
The best time to climb Kilimanjaro is during the dry season which is from middle June to early October. Weather conditions tend to be best during this period with the least chance of rain. It is also possible to hike Kilimanjaro from December to March, but weather conditions are less predictable. We recommend to avoid climbing Kilimanjaro during the rainy seasons: The long rainy period from April to May, and the short rainy period, during November. Please bear in mind that due to Kilimanjaro’s high altitude its weather patterns are not always seasonally predictable, making sunshine, snow and rain possible anytime of the year.
It is also possible to hike up Mount Kilimanjaro in April, May and November, however chances to encounter rain and snow during the hike, are substantially higher. Wet weather will make trails more difficult to hike on and muddy.
On The Mountain
Go slowly – “Pole Pole” as they say in Swahili! This is also very important during your first days of climbing. Even if you feel well, slow down and enjoy the scenery. The biggest cause of altitude sickness is ascending too high too fast! The slower you hike the more time you give your body to acclimatize.
Drink enough water
Make sure that you drink at least 3 litres of liquid a day – preferably water. For your first day it is recommended that you take along fresh water, which may be purchased at the hotel in Moshi before your climb. Please note no plastic bottles are allowed.
From day 2 onwards, porters will collect water from streams on the mountain and boil the water for you before refilling your water bottles. As extra precaution hikers may also bring water purification tablets and add to their drinking water.
REMEMBER! A functioning “body water balance” is one of the keys to a successful climb!
Please limit the weight in your daypack and climb as lightly as possible; this becomes even more important on your summit night. Extra weight will slow you down and will also make breathing more difficult.
Remember that you will be on the mountain for at least 6 or 7 days. You will need to take enough clothing, especially socks to last for this period. Due to frequent rainfall as well as numerous streams on the routes, it is advisable to pack items individually in your bag. Please take note that Tanzania has a plastic ban, so we recommend you use a big liner bag inside your duffel bag. Zip lock type plastic bags are allowed, but you may not dispose of it in Tanzania and need to take home with you. It is important to make sure items in your duffel bag remain dry even in case of rain or being accidentally dropped in a stream.
You will require the correct underwear, thermal hiking socks, gloves (preferably mittens), warm head protection, rain coat, sunglasses and sun protection cream. Also remember your hiking boots, hiking/running shoes (it is not necessary to walk with boots or climbers shoes until the last sections where scree and rocks are encountered), and very importantly, a walking stick / ski-pole. One of the most critical items of clothing is an outer jacket. You want it to perform the functions of keeping you warm, protect you at temperatures of as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius, keep the wind out and yet still “breath”. Try to avoid tight fitting clothing or underwear. This will hamper circulation, causing either cold or discomfort on the mountain. A balaclava is a must, as it will protect your face against cold, wind, sun and snow. Other clothing like shorts, sweaters and T-shirts are strongly recommended, especially during hiking on the lower slopes, when the day temperatures are still high. The only way to ensure that you are dressed warmly is to follow the principal of wearing the correct clothing layers, starting from against the body. A common mistake made by climbers is to wear almost everything they have and to start off with cotton against the skin. Cotton absorbs moisture perfectly, and moisture trapped against the skin will result in a definite lowering of the body temperature, which could even lead to hypothermia. It is therefore very important to use proper thermal underwear with “wicking” properties (a fabric which has the ability to draw moisture away from the body) and thus enabling it to evaporate to the outside. The middle layer should provide the insulation and a product like polar fleece will be adequate in this regard. The outer layer should be windproof, waterproof and breathable. Products like Ventex, Goretex or Jeantex offer these properties. Short of altitude and physical exertion, cold is one of the most serious obstacles when attempting to summit Kilimanjaro. After securing your booking with us, you’ll receive a comprehensive document, to guide you through the steps of purchasing the correct gear.
Take a hiking pole / ski pole
A ski pole is essential. The use of ski poles reduces external and internal loads on the knee joint by up to 20%. Using 1 ski pole is a must, but 2 poles are recommended. Buy one or hire one but take one – view our Gear Rental options.
Replace your head lamp and camera batteries with new ones on your summit night.
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
AMS commonly affects people at high altitude, who are not accustomed to high altitude conditions. AMS can be lethal if not treated immediately or if its symptoms are ignored. Probably 70% of all people climbing Kilimanjaro will suffer to some extent from AMS. You should familiarise yourself with this condition and take preventative care.
Malaria occurs below 1800 meters and you should use the recommended prophylactics. Please consult your doctor about these. Currently, there are various preventative medication products available which will be effective against the malaria strains currently found in Tanzania. Women using oral contraceptives should consult their physicians before using prophylactics.
Other useful tips
There is no washing water at Barafu, Kibo and Arrow Glacier camps. Wet Wipes are very useful
Take enough snacks like energy bars etc. Avoid the toffee like energy bars (as they get very hard and difficult to eat in low temperatures) but rather but the cereal type energy bars.
Adequate sun protection
Wear a good quality pair of sunglasses (with UV protection) and use adequate sun protection cream with a protection factor of at least 20+.
Use a thermal flask for your water on the summit night, other water bottles might freeze solid.
Taking pictures with a fully automatic camera at the summit of Kilimanjaro is possible, and most people do this. The secret is to always have a new battery in your camera when going into cold areas at high altitude. A mechanical camera works just as well, provided you have the knowledge to operate it successfully. Cameras exposed to cold do not cease functioning, but remember that if you keep your camera inside your jacket and the lens becomes warm, chances are that it will form condensation when suddenly exposed to extreme cold. This condensation will freeze under conditions at the summit. Therefore, keep your camera dry at all times. Moisture will freeze at the summit which WILL cause your camera to stop functioning.
Other useful tips: